Scotlands History

Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658)

1st Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland, Oliver Cromwell was born into the middle ranks of gentry and only gained notoriety after the age of 40.

He was a soldier who rose from commanding a single troop to controlling an entire army, which was on the side of the Parliamentarians in the civil war. Cromwell signed Charles I’s death warrant.

The Scots Presbyterian Covenanters proclaimed Charles II king. Cromwell responded by leading part of the New Model Army north to fight the Scots.

The Scots Covenanters, under David Leslie, suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Dunbar. After the battle, around 5000 Scots captives were marched south for over 100 miles. Many died of starvation and disease on the way to Durham Castle and Cathedral where the survivors were imprisoned. Around 1600 more Scots prisoners died in Durham in the winter of 1650. Their bodies were dumped in mass graves. Of the 5000 Covenanters that were marched south – only 1200 survived. Most were sold as slaves in America and the Caribbean. Some were forced to fight for Cromwell in France.

Cromwell and later General Monck attacked towns and castles, and occupied Scotland. Monck destroyed Rosslyn Castle with cannon while his troops stabled their horses in Rosslyn Chapel and shot at the chapel’s walls and statues with their muskets.

Cromwell ruled firmly until his death (possibly from Malaria) in 1658.  When the royalists regained power in 1660 his corpse was dug up, hung in chains and beheaded for all to see. Cromwell’s head was spiked on London Bridge.

  • Statue of Oliver Cromwell

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Listen to Scotch Cap, published in 1651. It was part of the first collection of popular dance tunes published in the British Isles. This was so popular it remained in print until 1728. Here the tune is played on the harp, descant recorder, baroque guitar, bodhran with snare and fiddle.